Cricket: Batting paradise in Napier

Kyle Mills doesn't expect to be jumping for joy at the batsmen-friendly McLean Park on Sunday. Photo / Getty
Kyle Mills doesn't expect to be jumping for joy at the batsmen-friendly McLean Park on Sunday. Photo / Getty

McLean Park is invariably the sort of pitch batsmen would love to roll up and pack in their travel kit.

Batsmen generally thrive, bowlers strive and sweat.

''I've been looking for assistance from this pitch for 12 years and I'm struggling to find it," quipped senior New Zealand seamer Kyle Mills, on the eve of the second ODI against the West Indies on Sunday.

New Zealand and England tied a game there five years ago, making 340 each.
The accumulated wisdom on what to expect in Napier should benefit New Zealand against a team who, although leading the five-game series 1-0, have lost all their three previous ODIs at McLean Park.

Mills hopes that knowledge will be a point in New Zealand's favour a they look to make amends from a disappointing effort in their two-wicket loss at Eden Park on Thursday.
''There's parts we can improve on, our fielding could have been better and obviously with the bat," he said.

''It's very important (in Napier) as a bowling unit to try and get hit straight, with the short boundaries square, so your plans adjust slightly.

Hopefully we've got an edge on the West Indies bowlers on that front."

The West Indies have lost classy batsman Darren Bravo, who has flown home to Trinidad for personal reasons, and won't be replaced.

Their seam bowling was top class at Eden Park.

Experienced Ravi Rampaul, up and comer Jason Holder and allrounder Dwayne Bravo troubled the batsmen, reducing them to 112 for nine before a 44-run final wicket stand by Nathan McCullum and Mitchell McClenaghan gave their bowlers something to work with.

They got eight wickets, McClenaghan outstanding with his first five-wicket bag, before Darren Sammy's bold unbeaten 43 off 27 balls got the tourists' home.

''It was exactly what we wanted, the momentum going into the next few games," Holder said.

''It wasn't the best test series we wanted (lost 2-0), but the captaincy has changed and the mood has changed and we're in better spirits."

Given the anticipated run feast, it's a debatable point whether it is smarter to get in first and put a strong score on the board, or send the opposition in and wait and see what target is set.

"We've had a number of games that were high scoring and close so I don't think it matters too much at this ground," Mills said, adding his personal preference is to bowl first as he rates New Zealand's chasing qualities.

Bravo's departure means test batsman Kirk Edwards is the obvious replacement, the only options being fast bowler Tino Best, spinner Nikita Miller and backup wicketkeeper Chadwick Walton.

Holder, 22 and with 17 wickets from his 12 ODIs, said the West Indies had discussed the importance of making the most of this series, given the proximity of the World Cup being hosted by Australia and New Zealand in 14 months.

"It's obviously a good test for us, being exposed to conditions at this early stage," he said. ''There's a few games at grounds we're playing on at the World Cup (including their final pool game against a qualifier in Napier) so it's good to get a good gauge on how the wickets will play."

Rain is forecast to sweep across Hawkes Bay tomorrow, raising the possibility of a weather-affected game.

- NZ Herald

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